ALPENA -The Alpena County Board of Commissioners voted on Tuesday to move forward with the creation of a wellness program that would offer incentives to the county employees to be more health conscience and fit. The plan, which was presented to the board by Clerk Bonnie Friedrich, is still in the planning stages but Friedrich said she hopes to have it in place for the first of the year.
In order for the employees to gain the incentives offered, such as personal time off, there will be points given for participating in the voluntary program. A number of points will be given for luncheons with guest speakers and for exercise. Friedrich said each participant will have a blood screening done by Alpena Regional Medical Center that will allow the person to focus on the areas of health which need improvement. She said the results of the blood work are confidential, but will work as a map toward improved health. She said she learned about the benefits of having a wellness program after reading about what other institutions have done and how their worker's health has improved.
"I was reading updates from Blue Cross and about the new health care reform which is coming through and we decided we could do this," Friedrich said. "It kind of snowballed and we started thinking about what could we do. What do we want to do and what do we hope to accomplish? We talked to district health and the hospital and it is only a draft right now, but we hope to have it in place on Jan.1."
Besides encouraging the employees and the commissioners to be more active Friedrich said there will be health experts who will be asked to share their knowledge with the county employees who take part. Friedrich said this is important because it may help the employees to signal out health risks before they materialize. She said by having the staff healthier, it also could help in the reduction of sick time and medical leave.
"We are encouraging people to learn about the signs and symptoms of diseases, to be a little more active and to eat healthier," Friedrich said. "This could maybe prevent a few worker's compensation claims and maybe lead to lower premiums for Blue Cross. It wouldn't be huge savings I'm sure, but every bit helps.
"It is more about helping the employee understand the signs of stress, fatigue, muscular degeneration of the eyes and other symptoms. We hope it will lead to better health for the workers."
As the plan stands now the county will provide the funding to make workout facilities available for the employees who will participate. Friedrich said the APlex has partnered with the county for unlimited use of the fitness center and use of Plaza Pool during open swim or programs also will be made available. Friedrich said she is in talks with other local businesses to help with the incentives.
"I have been looking for local vendors to supply gift certificates and other prizes. Nothing will be very large, because we hope not to invest in a lot of money."
Activities which provide exercise and build morale are in the planning stages. Friedrich said line dancing, laser tag, bowling and ice skating are a few of the things being considered. There also could be dodgeball, volleyball, basketball and badminton in the gym at the APlex. Participation in the program is on a voluntary basis and not mandatory.
Steve Schulwitz can be reached via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 358-5689.